In its new report Making Mission Possible: Delivering A Net-Zero Economy, international think-tank focused on economic growth and climate change mitigation, the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) has said that clean electrification must be the primary route to decarbonisation. The document highlights that dramatic falls in cost of renewable energy make this easily affordable and argues that all growth in electricity supply should now come from zero-carbon sources with no need to build any new coal-fired power capacity to support economic growth and rising living standards.
The report demonstrates that it is technically and economically possible to have a carbon-free economy by around mid-century at a total cost of less than 0.5 per cent of the global GDP by taking three overarching steps. Firstly, using less energy while improving living standards in developing economies, by achieving dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and shifting to a circular economy. Secondly, scaling up clean energy provision by building massive generation capacities of cheap clean power, at a pace five to six times higher than today, as well as expanding other zero-carbon energy sources such as hydrogen. And, finally, using clean energy across all sectors of the economy by electrifying many applications in buildings, transport and industry, and deploying new technologies and processes using hydrogen, sustainable biomass or carbon capture in sectors that cannot be electrified, like heavy industry or long-distance shipping and aviation.
India has adequate renewable energy resources to support a zero-carbon power system delivering 6,000 TWh or more in 2050 at close to no cost to electricity consumers, living standards or economic growth, due largely to the increasing competitiveness of India’s solar and wind energy sector. Detailed analysis by ETC India shows that wind and solar generation could increase to nearly 32 per cent of the nation’s power generation by 2030 with total low or zero carbon increasing to 47 per cent of the total. Moreover, the total system cost, allowing for necessary storage and flexibility resources, will be no higher than if new coal capacity were installed instead. Consequently, India can deliver rapid increases in electricity supply to support rising prosperity at a competitive total system cost, without building any more coal plants beyond those currently under construction.
The signatories acknowledge that this report is published in “an unprecedented context”. They argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the unpreparedness of the global economy to systemic risks and that the massive public spending now being dedicated to stimulating economic recovery constitutes a unique opportunity to invest in a more resilient economy.
The ETC estimates that additional investments required to achieve those goals will be in the order of US$1 trillion to US$2 trillion per year, equivalent to 1-1.5 per cent of the global GDP. This represents only a small increase of global investments which currently amount to about a quarter of global GDP, and would contribute to global economic growth.
“There is no doubt that it is technically and economically possible to reach the zero-carbon economy which we need by 2050; and zero must mean zero, not a plan which relies on the permanent and large-scale use of “offsets” to balance continued greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But action in the next decade is crucial, otherwise it will be too late,” ETC Co-Chair Adair Turner said.
Fellow ETC Co-Chair Ajay Mathur added, “In India as in many countries, climate change is already impacting people and disrupting the economy. Governments from developed and developing countries will find in this blueprint practical recommendations on how to enhance their national strategies and ramp-up their commitments as part of the Paris agreement.”
The ETC’s blueprint is intended to allow all developed economies to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, including China which has the resources and technology leadership to become a rich developed zero-carbon economy by 2050. All developing nations would be able to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 at the latest, but require development finance to de-risk and attract private green investment.
The report integrates findings from ETC’s landmark 2018 Mission Possible report and subsequent region-specific studies with updated analysis to reflect the latest trends in the readiness and cost of key emission-reducing technologies.